Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ad Astra Mr. Newman

On a day when many will have much to say about a man who few understood, or took the time to understand; in this country where we celebrate celebrity, and divest celebrities of their humanity; humanity is, after all, the only thing that matters.

At a time when I, too, like many, can share my Paul Newman stories about his infinite kindness in responding to a query letter with a screenplay enclosed; I can share my own personal experience of his uncommon generosity in returning the script at his own expense, as well as his personal response to invitations I sent to attend writers' forums speaking out against the neo-McCarthyism that had already reared its ugly head back in 2005.

Lots of people have lots of stories about his great humanity, about large endowments to First Amendment activists, and his abiding concern for civil liberties; about his stand against Nixon and reactionary dogs of state, as well as his support for Barack Obama, and justice.

But, in the end, there is so much chatter, and so little truth, so anyone who tells us about the world as he sees it will win our hearts. Paul Newman's integrity puts the world to shame.

And, at a time when those who will benefit for generations the most from his philanthropy, too, have their stories to tell, the work he has done to benefit humankind must, and will, continue, and this is, above all else, what Mr. Newman will be remembered for as, in the end, even legends have a short shelf life.

The planet along with every sentient being says happy birthday, Mr. Newman, to your long life forever in our hearts.

"We are such spendthrifts with our lives. The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I'm not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out," Paul Newman once told a reporter for The New York Times.

To a good farmer, we say only, ad astra, Mr. Newman; to the north star, and others, that will surely look to you for light, as the planet will continue to look to you for heart.